Layer-by-layer modification of thin-film metal–semiconductor multilayers with ultrashort laser pulses
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The surface modifications in a multilayer thin-film structure (50-nm alternating layers of Si and Al) induced by a single Gaussian-shaped femtosecond laser pulse (350 fs, 1028 nm) in the air are investigated by means of atomic-force microscopy (AFM), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), and optical microscopy (OM). Depending on the laser fluence, various modifications of nanometer-scale metal and semiconductor layers, including localized formation of silicon/aluminum nanofoams and layer-by-layer removal, are found. While the nanofoams with cell sizes in the range of tens to hundreds of nanometers are produced only in the two top layers, layer-by-layer removal is observed for the four top layers under single pulse irradiation. The 50-nm films of the multilayer structure are found to be separated at their interfaces, resulting in a selective removal of several top layers (up to 4) in the form of step-like (concentric) craters. The observed phenomenon is associated with a thermo-mechanical ablation mechanism that results in splitting off at film–film interface, where the adhesion force is less than the bulk strength of the used materials, revealing linear dependence of threshold fluences on the film thickness.
The work has been carried out at the “Femtosecond Laser Centre” of Joint Institute for High Temperatures of the Russian Academy of Sciences (JIHT RAS). We are indebted to A.V. Ovchinnikov and D.S. Sitnikov for help with the experiments.
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